Chinese blood banks and manufacturers of blood products are being urged in an ongoing national campaign to buy only lab-tested plasma to prevent the further spread of viruses, including HIV.
Since early July, health, medical supervision and public security departments and the prosecutors' office under the State Council have been investigating 36 blood-related businesses to see whether they sacrifice health standards for volume. The businesses are being asked to report their production volume, plasma sources and quantity, and quarantine and sterility conditions precisely and truthfully, officials said.
As the buyers of blood, the practices of such businesses are vital in preventing blood collection stations from violating operating regulations during plasma collection, said Ministry of Health spokesman Mao Quan'an.
The investigations are part of the campaign that started in late May to fight unsafe blood collection and supply, a primary cause of the rapid spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
To increase their profits from plasma centers and blood banks, many collection stations in China simply collect as much plasma as possible without regard to quality and quarantine standards or sterile practices.
The result was disastrous in the early 1990s in some rural and remote areas, where large numbers of farmers were infected with HIV while selling their blood at unlicensed stations.
A majority of the people who were infected in the early 1990s now have AIDS.
In response to the spread of HIV among thousands of farmers in the late 1990s, central China's Henan Province has closed all blood stations, both illegal and legal, Mao said. But he said they would continue working to find and close those that are operating secretly.
Meanwhile, attracted by high profits, some official blood centers and hospitals have also been collecting blood improperly, he said. For example, they collect blood too frequently from people who sell their blood to earn a living. Laboratory testing, if conducted at all, is often poorly done.
Some blood banks have bought blood without regard to standards, Mao said.
Efforts to strengthen blood management in recent years have led to the closing of most illegal blood stations and the blood supply is now much safer, Mao said.
The State Council seeks to close all illegal blood stations and make all blood centers and hospitals strictly follow blood transmission guidelines by the end of the year.
In a country with 840,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers, unsafe blood collection and transmission is one of the key reasons for the spread of HIV.
One of the primary causes of the chaotic blood market is the lack of voluntary unpaid donors, Mao said. Evidence from around the world demonstrates that voluntary unpaid blood donors are the foundation of a safe blood supply: they are associated with significantly lower levels of infections that can be transmitted by transfusion, including HIV and hepatitis.
An estimated 20 to 30 percent of blood in China comes from voluntary unpaid donors.
(China Daily July 30, 2004)